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English News

8 Precepts Retreat at Manchester Fo Guang Shan

【人間社記者 Miao Di United Kingdom報導】 2017-11-13
On the 4th November 2017, 17 participants engaged in the weekend 8 Precepts retreat at Manchester Fo Guang Shan temple. Guided by Venerable Miao Di and Chueh Ru, participants vowed to keep the 8 Precepts for 1 day and night. Throughout the retreat, all participants observed silence and the purpose of this can be seen in all activities arranged. It was a rare opportunity for us to observe our own thoughts, speech and behavior, as well as to reflect on our intentions and understanding of what Buddhist practice is.

The morning included a session on Buddhist etiquette of how different robes are worn when sitting, standing, walking and even eating. Participants realised that wearing these robes were also instrumental to the practice of mindfulness. This was followed by a delicious lunch that was prepared by the Young Adult Division team.

Venerable Miao Di used short and enjoyable way to help participants understand the fundamentals of Buddhism. Although the two clips may have been seen by some, the way Venerable Miao Di guided our reflections helped us gain much more than before. Through discussion, the message was clear that situations can change for the better, depending on our own thoughts and behaviour. People were initially filled with frustration and anger, can become happy through simple acts of kindness and harmony. Venerable Miao Di reminded us that this too, is a form of practice. That practice comes from one's heart and mind, and can be found in many forms - not just meditating and chanting.

The second clip on a person asking for appeal to enter Heaven - highlighted that being good or bad, can change and not last forever. It illustrated that we have a choice on how we act and respond. What we do can determine what kind of situation we end up. Therefore, it is important that we are mindful of our actions and recognize that our fortunes can "run out", if we do not keep up with our efforts. Consequently, it is important that we use our time wisely. Master Hsing Yun's teaches us that we can do this easily through giving. Giving our time, knowledge and Dharma teaching to benefit all beings - "When one gives, it is actually a form of sharing and transformation. There is no loss or gain."

The importance of practice is thus summarised as the form of purifying one's mind and conduct, which can be done in our everyday activities - not just at the temple. This can be exemplified when participants then engaged in Sutra Transcription and help set up for the Repentance service. All of these help us focus and concentrate on the task at hand. Participants were practicing Master Hsing Yun's 4 G's (Giving hope, convenience, confidence and joy). When our minds and actions are filled with positive and helpful behaviour, this leaves little room for our defilement. Venerable Cheuh Ru guided participants that through mindfulness, even without speech, tasks can be completely as a team smoothly.

After the evening "fluid" meal, participants had time to refresh themselves and engage in their choice of practice. Participants engaged in walking and sitting meditation session led by Venerable Cheuh Ru. There was a class on reading symbols in Sutras and using instruments to guide the chant. The evening was wrapped up with a sharing discussion. A few felt the use of animation made was very memorable and easy to relate and apply Buddhism to our lives. Some noticed that despite how noisy it was on the "outside", one can find peace within. One had joined the 8 precepts for the 6th time and reported that whilst arranging apples, it helped undo a knot in her heart. Venerable Miao Di reminded us that every situation can be your teacher. Overall many reported to have gained and joyful.

Everyday activities can be a form of practice, depending on your mind. Why is even washing the dishes a form of practice for Buddhists? We use activities as a tool to train our minds and watch our thoughts. To see clearly and cultivate the wisdom to respond to all kinds of situations. Venerable Miao Di reminded us that "if one practices well, one will experience more joy and less problems. If not, then one needs to reflect and amend their practice." This may not mean all problems will disappear, but our minds will be wise and calmer to manage and transform into something beneficial for all beings, with a joyous heart. By improving ourselves, we help more of those around us. We became agents of change to make healthy and happy lives within easy reach.

Practicing these 8 precepts helps us become more mindful, understand ourselves better and develop gratitude and compassion. We are grateful for all volunteers behind the scene to enable this opportunity possible for us all.
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